If you suspect you have a termite issue, you should contact a professional pest control company as soon as possible. According to Orkin Pest Control, homeowners across the country spend $5 billion each year on termite control and damage, which could set you back thousands. That might not be in your budget.

The best preventative measure is a termite inspection. Luckily, many pest control companies perform your first termite inspection for free, unless it’s part of a real estate transaction. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about termite inspections, from how you can prepare to what inspectors look for.

This Old House’s Reviews Team recommends contacting multiple pest control companies before making your final decision. Our top recommendations are Terminix and Orkin.

Termite Inspection Cost

Many pest control specialists, such as Terminix and Orkin, offer free termite inspections to determine whether your home has an active infestation. Customers who schedule a termite inspection as part of the loan process for a real estate transaction may need to obtain a termite letter from the pest control company, which usually costs $100–$200, according to Terminix. HomeAdvisor states the average cost of a termite inspection is around $100.

Signs You Need a Termite Inspection

Here are a few signs that you may need a professional termite inspection: 

  • Drywall discoloration 
  • Live termites around your home’s structure
  • Mud tubes
  • Pinholes in drywall 
  • Shed termite wings
  • Squeaky floorboards
  • Termite droppings around your home’s structure
  • Visibly damaged wood on your home 

If you notice any of these signs and cannot otherwise explain their cause, we recommend scheduling a termite inspection. Your pest control specialist will investigate each sign of termite activity to confirm the cause and prescribe a treatment plan. We’ve further detailed the termite inspection process in the following sections.

The Termite Inspection Process

The process is fairly easy. First, you schedule a termite inspection with your chosen company either online or over the phone. Set up a time with a licensed technician that works for you—keep in mind, you’ll have to be home to give them access to your house, garage, and any other structures you want checked out.

Some companies don’t require any prep before they arrive at your house, but others like you to take several measures to get ready. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the technician can access any key areas—primarily your attic, sink, garage, and crawl space, if you have one. Be sure to take any items out of your attic, remove any items blocking expansion joints in your garage, and anything that limits access to the opening of your crawl space or the space under your sink.

Your technician will inspect your interior and exterior, searching for tell-tale signs of termite activity and infestations, like mud tubes and shed wings. They’ll search high and low for evidence of both subterranean and drywood termites. The time this takes will depend on your property size and how accessible your woodwork is, but in general, it takes about 45 minutes, according to a Terminix representative.

After the inspection is wrapped up, the technician will break down what they found, how they can help eliminate the wood-destroying organisms, and give you a quote for treatment if you need it.

What Termite Inspectors Look For

There are several key pieces of evidence termite inspectors look for when they go on the hunt. These are indications you might also be able to pick up on yourself. Unfortunately, often, you can’t even tell termites are in your home until they’ve already wreaked havoc on your woodwork. That’s why termite inspections are so critical.

Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites create mud tubes, their very own superhighways that connect their nests to the wood they feast on. These narrow passageways are about the width of a pencil and are made up of wood and soil. Termites create these mud tubes for several reasons. They connect the wood to the soil, shield the termites from predators, and they keep them from getting dehydrated.

Mud tubes are a definite sign of subterranean termites, but the absence of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re termite-free. You could still have subterranean termites, and remember, drywood termites don’t even make mud tubes.

Wood Damage

If you knock your wood and it sounds hollow, it’s a surefire sign of termite activity. Termites do serious damage to your wood’s structural joints, leaving them with a rippled or crushed effect. You can inspect the wood with a screwdriver to expose any tunnels. Subterranean termites have a distinct style, always creating tunnels parallel to the grain of the wood.

Evidence of Swarms

When the weather starts to warm up, subterranean termites swarm to go off and develop a brand new colony. When they head out for greener pastures, they discard their wings, often leaving them in piles.


Frass is a fancy way of saying termite droppings. Frass is made up of very small, granular pellets shaped like ovals. If termites are present, you’ll often find frass by baseboards, door frames, and windowsills.

Buckling Paint

If you have subterranean termites, your paint may bubble or peel. Termites damaging drywall create access for moisture and air to get between the paint and the surface. The moisture below the painted surface can start buckling as a result.

Keep in mind that your paint may bubble up for different reasons, so it’s not a definitive sign of termite activity.

Live Termites

Live termites are notoriously difficult to spot. If you’re unlucky enough to spot one in your home, make sure you can tell it apart from an ant. Subterranean termites are made up of three distinct groups, workers, soldiers, and reproductives. All of these groups have a creamy white appearance. The main difference between them is that the reproductives have wings, making them look more than a little bit like flying ants.

There are a few ways to tell reproductive termites and flying ants apart. First, the wings. Termites, like flying ants, have two sets of wings, one in front and one in back. Termites’ wings are equal in length while flying ants’ front wings are larger than their rear ones. Termites are also thicker through the middle than flying ants, and they have straight antennae instead of bent ones.

Key Areas to Inspect

In addition to your garage, attic, and crawl space, there are several other important places to evaluate closely when you’re playing Sherlock to protect your home.

Wooden Structures

Outdoor wooden structures, like a deck, shed, carport, or arbor, can be vulnerable to termites. If you didn’t use termite-resistant products during construction, you should be extra wary.

Wood Fences

If termites find their way to your wooden fencing, they can start munching on it and eventually follow the trail to your home.


Cracks in expansion joints and brick construction are common entryways for termites.


If you leave fallen tree branches in your yard, you are asking for termite activity. Dispose of any tree limbs to keep your property safe.


Depending on where you live, you may have a nice stack of firewood all set up for cozy nights. But these piles are essentially the makings of a termite feast. You can definitely keep firewood, just be sure to elevate it off the ground and keep it no closer than 20 feet from your house.

Wood Mulch

Wood can be a great ingredient in lots of mulches, but it can also be a beacon for pesky termites, whether for lunch or shelter. If you suspect you have a termite problem, consider an alternate type of mulch.

Calling in the Professional Home Inspectors

When it comes time for a termite inspection, you want to call the best pest control companies out there. With expertise and highly trained technicians, these companies will provide the best inspection.

Orkin and Terminix offer free termite inspections to evaluate whether your home is termite-free. Each company performs through inspections of all cracks and crevices and common entry points. If you have termites, they will give you a treatment plan and detailed written report.

There you have it. Whether you decide to DIY your termite inspection or hire a professional pest control company, that’s the process you can expect. Take care to get it done either way, because no one wants their home to turn into an all-you-can-eat termite buffet.

Frequently Asked Questions About Termite Inspections

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plan options, additional benefits and convenience factors, availability, trustworthiness, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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